This was just released. Its cool that some of my family and friends will see themselves because they flew out to film me in my home…and my walls are covered with images of the people that I love. They did a lovely job with this interview; so much ground is covered. But there are two points that didn’t survive the edit. My final mission was not with my people but with 6 mercenaries…and I was the only man on that mission that could speak English. So I had to stay alive, to get us extracted.
Last week, there was a meme on Jeff Goldblum and an Ariana song. I liked it, wanted to TBT it, I thought it was a lovely tribute to one of our more interesting actors…and someone present at my own artistic beginnings.
Jeff was still 17 when we met at The Neighborhood Playhouse in NYC in fall of 1970. It was headed by Sanford Meisner, of the Group Theater. He was then one of the holy trinity of Stanislavski: Sandy Meisner, Stella Adler and Lee Strassberg. In the 70’s I got to study with all three. 😉
Jeff was 17, tall, a skilled pianist who could sing and dance and do magic and juggle and…like many of his fellow students, had known what he wanted to do and be for some years already. I was 26, barely home a year from Vietnam, six months out of the hospital. I was there on the G I Bill. My decision to study acting was less than 8 months old…but I was committed. That first year was exciting, revealing, healing. We were both invited back for the second year. Not everyone was. In early winter, within a week, Jeff got offered an Off-Broadway play…and I got offered a role on a soap opera. Somerset. Making $400 a day. Do you know what a 1st Lt made back then? Even with jump pay, combat pay? Maybe $6K annually.
It wasn’t just the money, I had my break! And tho it caused a rift between Sandy and I for many years, I chose the role. There was a hard and fast rule at The Playhouse. You could not act professionally and be a student there. So Jeff and I were forced to leave…and begin our professional careers. In the late 90’s, Sandy was represented by my agent and one Christmas gathering, I got to kneel before him, in his wheelchair and thank him for his guidance and his patience with that troubled veteran and the craft that he had given to me. He seemed to recognize me, even after so many years…but I can’t be sure. I hope so.
This photo was taken in my SoHo loft, summer of ’71. A few years later in ‘76, Jeff sublet my Tribeca loft while he shot Between The Lines and I visited LA. That did not end well, thru no fault of Jeff’s. I behaved badly, requesting my home back, before the agreed upon lease and while he was shooting a film! To this day, I am ashamed of that episode.
Jeff and I have reconnected, in recent years. He was gracious and I am grateful to have reconciled that transgression.
Tonite I watched a preview performance of FINKS, opening this Saturday evening. It’s sold out. No doubt! 😉 This accomplished cast, headed by French Stewart, offers an evening of American Exceptionalism at its darkest. The Black List is among our more embarrassing historical footnotes; post WW II, as American artists confronted American political bigotry. FINKS will play in repertory with OPPENHEIMER, which engages the creation and deployment of nuclear power as a weapon against humanity.
I can’t imagine any contemporary actor being unmoved by FINKS. It is riveting, a Sophie’s Choice: Either cooperate with HUAC…or no longer work. Accomplished careers were shattered; lifelong friendships were betrayed and destroyed. I suspect that many ‘civilians’ will find resonance with our reality right now. The Confrontation of self-interest with principle: “Which side are you on?”
I was engaged from the outset. But I was stunned by French’s work late in the 2nd Act. It was as tho his Truth had reached into my chest…and squeezed my heart. I hope you’ll choose to attend. This is memorable theater. This is a performance you’ll not want to miss.
As usual, a synchronicity further connects me to FINKS. In the late 70’s I’d purchased a two bedroom co-op on Central Park West, leaving behind my beloved NYC loft existence; I wanted to OWN a home in NYC. Kareem Abdul Jabbar occupied one of the penthouses, and Tony Brown, another. 12 B. 444 Central Park West. My two bedroom overlooked Central Park, the East Side to the east and the TriBoro Bridge to the north. Tits!
This building enjoyed a history. It had once been known as Little Moscow…because so many of its units were occupied by accomplished artists included in the Black Lists. I only learned of that several years later, when filming a MOW for NBC in Atlanta, FOR LADIES ONLY. I was portraying a male stripper…probably my zenith as a sexual object. 😉 One of our stars, Gregory Harrison was visited in Atlanta by his friend, Dinah Manoff. I learned that she had grown up in that same building. She remembered my doorman, still on the job. Dinah’s parents were Lee Grant and Arnold Manoff. Both were referenced by name, tonite in FINKS.
Extend yourselves, LA theater goers. ROGUE MACHINE THEATRE now exists in Venice. Our brand still represents; much like KFC, we still do THEATRE right! Book a reservation and see FINKS…and afterwards, knowing that you got lucky, return to see OPPENHEIMER.
Goddamn, I am so proud of our theater and the art we generate!